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הרוצח בשגגה והכהן הגדול

לחכות עד שהכהן ימות?

בפרשת מסעי, אנו קוראים על העונש המגיע לרוצח בשגגה, המכונה בלשון חז׳׳ל ״גלות,״ ושארכו מוחלט לא על ידי בית דין של מטה, אלא על ידי בית הדין של מעלה, מתי שהוא מזמין את הכהן הגדול למנוחתו. ולמה יהיה כך? מה הקשר בינו ובין הפושע הלז? למה חייו של הכהן יהיו הגורם המחליט את ענשו של הזולת?

נתחיל עם דברי רש׳׳י לבמדבר לה:כה:

עד מות הכהן הגדול: שהוא בא להשרות שכינה בישראל ולהאריך ימיהם, והרוצח בא לסלק את השכינה מישראל ומקצר את ימי החיים. אינו כדאי שיהא לפני כהן גדול (ספרי מסעי כ׳) .דבר אחר לפי שהיה לו לכהן גדול להתפלל שלא תארע תקלה זו לישראל בחייו (מכות יא:).

שני טעמים אלו נאמרו ע׳׳י חז׳׳ל, אבל שאלותינו עדיין לא נענו. נניח שהכהן הגדול מסמל את ההפך של שופך הדמים, והיה לו לעשות יותר כדי למנוע את מות הנקיים, אבל מה הרוצח מרויח מזה? מה אכפת לו אם יישב בדד עשרות שנים, שנים תלויות במתי שזה ייצא לעולמו? ואדרבה, המשנה (מכות שם) מספרת על איך שאמותיהם של הכהנים הגדולים ניסו לשחד את הרוצחים, למצוא חן בעיניהם כדי שלא יתפללו שהכהן ימות, ומזה רואים שהרבה רוצחים באו לראות את הכה׳׳ג כעוין.

אלא, מסתברא שהקשר בין גזר דינו של הרוצח ובין חייו שלכהן אמור ללמדו לקח, להעניק לו על מה לחשוב משך תקופת מאסרו.

ההלכה הופכת את הרוצח לכהן גדול

לפני שנגיע לתשובתנו ההצעתית, ישנן כמה הלכות המשוות את הרוצח, כשהוא בעיר המקלט, לכהן הגדול. (כדי להקל על הקורא, כל ההלכות כאן מובאות מהלכות רוצח ושמירת הנפש וכלי המקדש והעובדים בו ועבודת יום הכפורים להרמב׳׳ם, אבל מקורם בדברי חז׳׳ל גלויים לכל מאן דבעי לעיוני בהון טפי.)

אם קרובו של הכהן הגדול ייפטר הכהן

אינו יוצא אחריו, ואינו יוצא מפתח ביתו או מן המקדש; וכל העם באים לנחמו לביתו. וְהוּא עוֹמֵד בְּשׁוּרָה, וּסְגַן מִיְּמִינו וְרֹאשׁ בֵּית אָב מִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ; וְאוֹמְרִים לוֹ אָנוּ כַּפָּרָתָךְ, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לָהֶם תִּתְבָּרְכוּ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם. וּכְשֶׁמַּבְרִין אוֹתוֹ, כָּל הָעָם מְסֻבִּין עַל הָאָרֶץ; וְהוּא מֵסֶב עַל הַסַּפְסַל.

וזה במקביל למצב הנוצר על ידי הרוצח, בגלל שגואל הדם אינו מספיק להתאבל על מתו כמו שצריך, בישיבת שבעה, כי עסוק הוא ברדיפת הרוצח.

ועוד:

תַּלְמִיד שֶׁגָּלָה לְעָרֵי מִקְלָט, מַגְלִין רִבּוֹ עִמּוֹ:  שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וָחָי” (דברים ד,מב; דברים יט,ד; דברים יט,ה)–עֲשֵׂה לוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּחְיֶה, וְחַיֵּי בַּעֲלֵי חָכְמָה וּמְבַקְּשֶׁיהָ בְּלֹא תַּלְמוּד כְּמִיתָה חֲשׁוּבָה. 

ואצל הכהן המתכונן לעבודתו ביום הכפורים:

וּמוֹסְרִין לוֹ זְקֵנִים מִזִּקְנֵי בֵּית דִּין, וְקוֹרְאִין לְפָנָיו וּמְלַמְּדִין אוֹתוֹ עֲבוֹדַת הַיּוֹם וְסִדּוּרָהּ; וְאוֹמְרִין לוֹ, אִישִׁי כּוֹהֵן גָּדוֹל, קְרָא אַתָּה בְּפִיךָ, שֶׁמֶּא שָׁכַחְתָּ אוֹ שֶׁמֶּא לֹא לָמַדְתָּ דָּבָר זֶה.

בקשר להשהותו בעיר המקלט, נפסק להלכה:

וְרוֹצֵחַ שֶׁמֵּת בְּעִיר מִקְלָטוֹ, קוֹבְרִין אוֹתוֹ שָׁם. (וּבְעֵת שֶׁיָּמוּת הַכּוֹהֵן הַגָּדוֹל, מוֹלִיכִין עַצְמוֹת הָרוֹצֵחַ מִשָּׁם לְקִבְרֵי אֲבוֹתָיו)….הַגּוֹלֶה אֵינוּ יוֹצֶא מֵעִיר מִקְלָטוֹ לְעוֹלָם, וְאַפִלּוּ לִדְבַר מִצְוָה, אוֹ לְעֵדוּת בֵּין עֵדוּת מָמוֹן בֵּין עֵדוּת נְפָשׁוֹת:  וְאַפִלּוּ לְהַצִּיל נֶפֶשׁ בְּעֵדוּתוֹ, אוֹ לְהַצִּיל מִיַּד הַגַּיִס, אוֹ מִיַּד הַנָּהָר, מִיַּד הַדְּלֵקָה, וּמִיַּד הַמַּפֹּלֶת.  וְאַפִלּוּ כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל צְרִיכִין לִתְשׁוּעָתוֹ כְּיוֹאָב בֶּן צְרוּיָה, אֵינוּ יוֹצֶא מִשָּׁם לְעוֹלָם עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת הַכּוֹהֵן הַגָּדוֹל.  וְאִם יָצָא, הִתִּיר עַצְמוֹ לְמִיתָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ.

ומקבילו אצל הכהן הגדול:

וּבַיִת יִהְיֶה לוֹ מוּכָן בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ, וְהִיא הַנִּקְרֵאת לִשְׁכַּת כּוֹהֵן גָּדוֹל.  וּכְבוֹדוֹ וְתִפְאַרְתּוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה יוֹשֵׁב בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ, כָּל הַיּוֹם; וְלֹא יֵצֵא אֵלָא לְבֵיתוֹ בִּלְבָד, בַּלַּיְלָה אוֹ שָׁעָה אוֹ שְׁתַּיִם בַּיּוֹם.  וְיִהְיֶה בֵּיתוֹ בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם, וְאֵינוּ זָז מִשָּׁם…. וְכוֹהֵן גָּדוֹל דָּן, וְדָנִין אוֹתוֹ, וּמְעִידִין עָלָיו; וְאֵין דָּנִין אוֹתוֹ דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת אֵלָא בְּבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל בִּלְבָד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “כָּל-הַדָּבָר הַגָּדֹל יָבִיאוּ אֵלֶיךָ” (שמות יח,כב).  [ט] הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ עֵדוּת–אֵינוּ חַיָּב לַהֲעִידָהּ, וְאַפִלּוּ בְּבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל:  שֶׁזֶּה אֵינוּ כָּבוֹד לוֹ, שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ וְיָעִיד.  וְאִם הָיְתָה עֵדוּת לְמֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל–הֲרֵי זֶה הוֹלֵךְ לְבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל, וּמֵעִיד לוֹ.

הצד השוה בהם הוא ששניהם מצויים בערים מוקפות חומה בארץ ישראל, מקומות יותר קדושים משאר הארץ, הכה׳׳ג בירושלים ואינו ראוי לצאת עד יום מותו, והרוצח בעיר מקלטו עד יום מות הכהן, ואם יחליט לצאת לפני כן, דמו בראשו, והכה׳׳ג רק יוצא להעיד בעד המלך אם בית הדין יושב בירושלים. נמצא שהכהן הגדול נשאר בחברת משרתי עליון, הכהנים והלויים, בתוך המקדש, והרוצח נשאר באותה החברה, בעיר כהנים או עיר לויים (ראה ביהושע פר׳ שערי הלוויים המצוות בתורה בפועל נתנו גם לכהנים.)

ועוד, הרוצח נשאר בשפלותו לחיים:

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּתְכַּפַּר לוֹ, אֵינוּ חוֹזֵר לַשְּׂרָרָה שֶׁהָיָה בָּהּ לְעוֹלָם, אֵלָא הֲרֵי הוּא מוּרָד מִגְּדֻלָּתוֹ כָּל יָמָיו, הוֹאִיל וּבָאָה תַּקְלָה זוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה עַל יָדוֹ.

אבל כהן גדול נשאר בגדולתו כל חייו

מַעֲלִין מִשְּׂרָרָה לִשְׂרָרָה שְׁהִיא גְּדוֹלָה מִמֶּנָּה, וְאֵין מוֹרִידִין אוֹתוֹ לִשְׂרָרָה שְׁהִיא לְמַטָּה מִמֶּנָּה–שֶׁמַּעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ, וְלֹא מוֹרִידִין לְעוֹלָם מִשְּׂרָרָה שֶׁבְּקֶרֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל:

וכן אירע כמה פעמים בתולדות ישראל שהיו כמה כהנים עם דין של כהן גדול, כמו במצב שנטמא הכהן הגדול ביום כפור, ונכנס אחר למלא מקומו:

עָבַר יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים–הֲרֵי הָרִאשׁוֹן חוֹזֵר לַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ, וְהַשֵּׁנִי עוֹבֵר.  וְכָל מִצְוַת כְּהֻנָּה גְּדוֹלָה עָלָיו, אֵלָא שְׁאֵינוּ עוֹבֵד כְּכוֹהֵן גָּדוֹל; וְאִם עָבַד, עֲבוֹדָתוֹ כְּשֵׁרָה.  וְאִם מֵת הָרִאשׁוֹן, זֶה הַשֵּׁנִי מִתְמַנֶּה תַּחְתָּיו.

כל הדוגמאות הללו מראות שהתורה מקשרת את מעמדו של הרוצח עם זה של הכהן הגדול. התורה בדרך כלל קובעת עונשים כמו מלקות, או מיתה, או קנסים כספיים, אבל במקום להעניש את הרוצח בשגגה, ניתנה לו הזדמנות ייחודית להדמות לכהן הגדול. הדפים הראשונים של מסכת מכות מתמודדים עם חוסר עקביות זה. בדרך כלל, מענישים עד זומם ״כאשר זמם לעשות לאחיו,״ אשר נגדו הוא העיד שווא. לכן, אם בקשו עדים זוממים שראובן יילקה על עוון אכילת בשר חזיר שהוא באמת לא אכל, או להפסיד את ממונו על ידי תשלום על נזקים שהוא לא גרם, בסוף העדים סופגים את הארבעים או משלמים. עם זאת, הגלות לעיר מקלט איננה אופציה עבורם אם הם זממו להאשים המסכן הלז ברציחה בשגגה, כמו שאין דרך להפוך אותם לחללים למרות שהם ביקשו להעיד שאמו של כהן מסוים היתה זחו׳׳ג. למה לא נַגלה את העדים הזוממים האלה? הלא עונש הגלות הגופנית דומה יותר למלקות או  מיתה? אלא, נראה כי הטלת הגלות על הרוצח היא לא עונש כשלעצמו, אלא צורה כלשהי של תקון, וכי קיים קשר מסתורי בין הכהן הגדול לבין הרוצח, וזה עושה את שאלותינו הקודמות רק חזקות יותר.  בית דין אינו יכול להעניש עבריין בחילול מעמד כהונתו, וכמו כן אינו יכול להעניש על ידי מתן מעמד כהונה. לכן עלינו לשאול, מהי מטרת הגלות? מדוע יהיה עונשו של הרוצח תלוי בתוחלת חייו של הכהן הגדול? מדוע במקום להעניש את הרוצח, התורה קובעת שהוא יתנהג כמו כהן גדול? מה היא מלמדתנו?

הנזיר והכהן

הנזיר מקבל על עצמו סדרה של איסורים שהופכים אותו כמעט לכהן. כהן הוא קדוש יותר מיהודי הדיוט דווקא משום שחלות עליו מצוות נוספות, כמו שקדושת השבת וימים נובעת מאיסור המלאכה החל על אותם ימים, ומי שעושה מלאכה בהם, מחללם. בשתי מצוות הנזיר מחקה את הכהן, ובשתי מצוות הוא עושה בדיוק את ההפך: א׳ הנזיר נמנע מהיין כמו שהכהן נמנע ממשקאות משכרים כאשר הוא אמור לשרת במקדש, ב׳ הנזיר אינו נטמא למתים כמו כהן, ג׳ הכהן מקריב קרבן מיוחד, מנחת החנוך, כשמתחיל לכהן, ואילו הנזיר מקריב קרבן מיוחד כאשר הוא מסיים את נזירותו, ד׳ על הכהן נאסר גידול פרע ראשו, לא יותר משלושים יום של גידול שיער, ואילו הנזיר חייב לגדל פרע ראשו לפחות לשלשים יום ועד תום נזירותו. ואמרו חז”ל שאורך השיער המקסימלי של הכהן נלמד מדין שיעור השיער המינימלי של הנזיר.

מהי מטרת ההשוואה ההלכתית בין הנזיר והכהן? לפי חכמינו, הנזירות גורמת התבוננות מבחינה רוחנית. לדוגמה, הנזיר לומד כיצד להימנע מחטאים פוטנציאליים על ידי החמרה על עצמו וקפדנות, ההמנעות מהשתכרות שומרת עליו מנסיונות של התאוות הבהמיות, ועל ידי ההמנעות מטומאה חמורה, הוא תמיד זמין להתעסק בקדשים, כמו הכהנים. לנזיר יש אפוא חוויה מרוממת על ידי התבוננות באיסוריו הנוספים, ומעניק לעצמו הזדמנויות רבות יותר לקיים מצוות חיוביות מסוימות, המקדמות גידול רוחני. הנזיר האמיתי כאילו אומר בלבו, “הכהן הוא קרוב לה׳ על ידי התבוננות במצוותיו הנוספות, ואני רוצה להתקרב לה׳, אז אני אעשה כל מה שאני יכול כדי להיות כמו כהן.”

וכן לגבי הרוצח בשגגה.

שָנים בכלא

תאר לעצמך מה קורה בלב הרוצח לאחר שהתרגל לביתו ולחייו החדשים. כבר הסתיימה סדרת האירועים שהתחילה בגרימת מותו של הרֵע, ובריחתו מגואל הדם אל עיר המקלט, והעמדתו למשפט, והרשעתו, ונסיעתו חזרה לעיר המקלט לכַהן כהונה משונה, ועכשיו יש לו זמן לשקול את מצבו החדש. אם הוא רגיל להאשים אחרים, ואינו חושב על חלקו בקביעת גורלו, הוא ייכשל, ויישב ויקווה ויתפלל ר׳׳ל שהכהן הגדול יעזוב את העולם הזה הכי מהר שאפשר כדי שיוכל לעזוב את בית כלאו. מבחינתו, זוהי תחרות, ​​מי לא ימות ראשון. הוא לא ילמד דבר. או, הוא יכול לחשוב לא רק על זה שגורלו תלוי בכהן הגדול, אלא איך שהוא עצמו עכשיו במצב דומה לזה של הכהן הגדול, עצור בכלוב זהב, מוקף משרתיו של הקב׳׳ה. יש מצב שאז הוא יתחיל לומר לעצמו, ״מכמה בחינות אני מחויב במצוות דומות לאלה המחייבות את הכהן הגדול. אני אמור להתנהג כמוהו. מהו תפקידו העיקרי של הכהן הגדול? הקרבנות הם רק אמצעי, ובאמת תפקידו של הכהן הוא להביא ולהגדיל את השלום לכלל ישראל. הוא אמור לשמור על כולם, ואילו הבנתי את זה קודם, לא היתה לי את ההשקפה חסרת האכפתיות שהובילה אותי לגרום למותו של בן אדם. אני באמת צריך ללמוד איך להיות חנון ורחום וגומל חסדים כמו רבנו, הכהן הגדול, ממלא מקומו של אהרן הכהן הראש. אני צריך לקדש שם שמים בעה׳׳ז ולהיות מקובל על הבריות, ולא להחשיך את העולם בשפיכות דמים. מהלאה אני צריך לבקש את טובתם של הבריות וּלכבדם.”

או שהרוצח חי ככה במשך כל הזמן שהכהן הגדול גם חי, ואם הוא ימות לפני מותו של הכהן, ייקבר בקבר אבותיו רק אחרי שהכהן הגדול נקבר בשלו, או, הוא יקבל הזדמנות חדשה לחיות כאשר הכהן הגדול יילך לעולמו ותוך כדי כך יכפר על חטאי כל הדור, כולל אלה של הרוצח. ואז הרוצח פתאום חופשי לעזוב את העיר שלו בלי לפחד שהוא ייהרג, והוא מבין איך חייו היו קשורים בקשר הדוק עם חיי הכהן הגדול, אשר כביכול, נתן את הרוצח חיים חדשים על ידי מותו! זאת בניגוד מוחלט לנסיבות שהביאו אותו לעיר המקלט, כאשר הוא לקח את חיי הזולת. רק אז הוא משֻקּם, והוא מסוגל לחזור לחברה, לממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש.

Kanna’im and the Lesson of Beith Shammai and Beith Hillel

Why is it that among the dozens of Tannaim, the sages mentioned in the Mishna, we only find two Yeshivoth that express opinions worthy of being recorded for posterity, namely Beith Shammai and Beith Hillel? Surely Rabbi Jose the Galilean, or Rashbi, or Rabbi Akiva, or Rabbi Meir, or Rabbi Yehuda ben Illai, or Rabbi Joshua, or Rabbi Eliezer would have raised a generation of student-scholars capable of rendering an opinion. And indeed, we do know of whole academies from the third century until the present day, and their collective opinions are recorded. Yet the Mishnaic period is mostly silent, save for the numerous arguments between the schools of Shammai and Hillel.

The answer, I believe, lies in the sages’ description of the controversies between the two schools as being for the sake of heaven (Avoth 5:17): 

Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is destined to endure; one that is not for the sake of Heaven is not destined to endure. Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The dispute(s) between Hillel and Shamai.

…..

The sages actually wanted to discourage potential Phinehas’s from taking lethal action against perceived sinners, even when the halacha (Sanhedrin 9:6) prescribes that zealots may kill transgressors (Sanhedrin 82a):

R’ Hisda said, “If the zealot comes to take counsel [as to whether to strike the offenders], we do not instruct him to do so.” It has been stated likewise: Rabba b. Bar Hana said in R. Yohanan’s name, “If he comes to take counsel, we do not instruct him to do so. Also, if Zimri had stopped and Phinehas still slew him, Phinehas would have been executed on his account, and had Zimri turned upon Phinehas and slain him, he would not have been executed, since Phinehas was a pursuer [trying to take his life].

The result of these interpretations is that in order for one to ever take such action, he would need a very high level of confidence, probably like that of a prophet violating an explicit prohibition when instructed to do so by God Himself, one that to my knowledge, has not been attained by anyone else in recorded history. At three more junctures we find that Phinehas would take action, but only after consultation with a higher authority. The first is in this book of Numbers, the second is in the book of Joshua, and the third is in the book of Judges.

Next week we will read (Numbers 31:1-7):

 The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, ‘Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites; afterward shall you be gathered unto your people.’ Moses spoke unto the people, saying: ‘Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. Of every tribe a thousand, of all the tribes of Israel shall you send to the war.’ So there were delivered, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. Moses sent them, a thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest…

That is, even though this would be a war of God’s vengeance, Phinehas was not acting on his own, but rather as an agent of Moses.

Some fifteen years later, after the Land of Canaan had been divided among the tribes we find (Joshua 22:9-13):

The children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. When they came to the region about the Jordan, that is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, a great altar to look upon. The children of Israel heard them saying: ‘Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar in the forefront of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, across from the children of Israel.’ When the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up against them to war. The children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and with him ten leaders, one leader of a fathers’ house for each of the tribes of Israel; and they were every one of them head of their fathers’ houses among the thousands of Israel. They came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them.

That is, although the majority of the people were gearing up for a religiously motivated civil war, coolers heads still prevailed, and Phinehas served as the head of a fact-finding mission commissioned by the people’s leaders.

Even later we read about how an aggrieved Levite sought to provoke the rest of the tribes into a war against the single tribe of Benjamin (Judges 19:29-30, 20):

 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man, from Dan to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, to the Lord at Mizpah. The chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpah.–And the children of Israel said: ‘Tell us, how was this wickedness brought to pass?’ And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said: ‘I came into Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. The men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night; me they thought to have slain, and they raped my concubine, and she is deadI took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed lewdness and wantonness in Israel. Behold, you are all here, children of Israel, give here your advice and council.’ All the people arose as one man, saying: ‘We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn unto his house. But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victuals for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the wantonness that they have wrought in Israel.’ So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

But before they attacked, they consulted God:

The children of Israel arose, and went up to Beth-el, and asked counsel of God; and they said: ‘Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin?’… And the children of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until even; and they asked of the Lord, saying: ‘Shall I again draw nigh to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?’ And the Lord said: ‘Go up against him.’ …. The children of Israel asked of the Lord–for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days–saying: ‘Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?’

And this time, it was Phinehas who thrice asked God as to what to do.

Some years ago I also wrote about how God relieved Elijah of his duties as prophet because he could not learn how to control his zealous tendencies. Thus, the clear message is that zealotry is undesirable, even when it comes from the greatest of men. 

….

When Eldad and Medad’s prophecies posed a challenge to Moses’s authority, we read:

וַיַּעַן יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה מִבְּחֻרָיו–וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנִי מֹשֶׁה, כְּלָאֵם. וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מֹשֶׁה, הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי; וּמִי יִתֵּן כָּל-עַם יְי, נְבִיאִים–כִּי-יִתֵּן יְי אֶת-רוּחוֹ, עֲלֵיהֶם.

Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses mib’huraw, answered and said, “My master, Moses, incarcerate them.” Moses said unto him, “Ham’qanne atta, are you zealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!”

Note how Joshua is here described in even more ways than usual. Not just Joshua, not Joshua bin Nun, not just Moses’s attendant, an appellation used before to indicate his close mentor/student relationship with Moses, but also mib’huraw, which, as the Ibn Ezra points out, could mean “since his youth,” i.e., Joshua had served Moses since the former was a young man,  but that is untenable, because Joshua, who at the time was about 40 years of age, could only have entered Moses’s service two years before that, when Moses returned to Egypt in advance of the Exodus. Rather, mib’huraw means “of Moses’s bahurim” the word for young men that even until today is used to describe those who are dedicated to Torah study, or in Yinglish, “yeshiva bachurs.” (This explanation of the word was first given by Rabbeinu Bahyeh.) That is, although Moses was the teacher of all Israel, Joshua was part of Moses’s personal yeshiva.

It seems that the way of kanna’im is fundamentally different from that of their teachers, and it is to be reined in. The phenomenon of students being zealous for the sake of their rabbeim goes back to the very first yeshiva, and it was the first rosh yeshiva who rebuked his top student for displaying kanna’ut for the Rebbe’s honor. The master does not need his students to speak up on his behalf. How much more so should this lesson be heeded today.

Some years ago, after the Slifkin controversy had left the front pages of the new, Jewish blogosphere, Gil Student wrote this summary of the events. I felt that it glossed over an essential part of the story: the role of the kanna’im in the whole affair. I can not find the whole text of the original now, but at the time, the internet was still the frontier for these discussions, and I typed a letter to the Jewish Press which was printed in the next week’s issue. In it, I mentioned what I had heard from Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik in the name of R’ Chayim Soloveichik. In the kitchen there are two who wish to be rid of the mice, the balabusta because of hygiene, and the cat because he is hungry. When great scholars speak out strongly against what they feel are threats to Jewish continuity, they are like balabustas, but the kanna’im and askanim, who are looking to pick fights, are like the cats. The Slifkin affair was not instigated by Rabbi Elyashiv and his colleagues, who were content to sit and study in peace and let their opinions and examples speak for themselves, but rather by hangers-on and professional controversy stirrers.

Years later there was another individual who also came out strongly on some issue which I can not recall and, to justify his strong denunciations, he pointed out that he was a talmid muvhak, a prime student, of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who had, against his usual behavior, also come out strongly on this issue. He was just doing as his rebbe did. I wrote to him at the time there was an essential difference between him and R’ Moshe. R’ Moshe was a widely respected and famous scholar, while he was certainly not famed for his piety and scholarship, and therefore, when his rebbe would express a very strong opinion, it would be taken into account, but if he himself comes out of left field ranting and raving, he will be considered some meshugenneh from New Jersey. Apparently, he accepted what I had to say, because he stopped after that.

Most recently, I wrote that letter to Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein. When I think of talmidim of Rav Elyashiv, I think of Rav Efrati, a man known for his schools of Jewish scholarship and their publications regarding practical and relevant halacha, and specifically Israeli halacha, a man I have spoken to in person on a number of occasions when real practical and personal questions came up, and he is not such a kanna’i. And then there’s Rabbi Eisenstein, who, unfortunately, is now known more for associating with those desecrators of God’s Name who initiated the Slifkin ban and for illogically denouncing God-fearing Jews for trying to fulfill the commandments. This fits into the pattern I mentioned above. The students care less about the logic behind the opinions and views they received, and more about the bottom line, and out of pride in their rebbe, they seek to impose “their rebbe’s” opinion on others or demand that others respect their rebbe as much as they do. Did R’ Elyashiv really feel so negatively about Jews wearing t’cheileth? Of course not. He felt that they have whom to rely on. Yet it is his students who need to go out and make sure that others honor those positions by practicing them. MY Rebbe is the greatest, and therefore ALL shall follow him.

This, therefore, is why I believe other schools are not mentioned in the Mishna. Beith Shammai and Beith Hillel demonstrated a profound respect for each other. The sages imply that when there were differences of opinion between other schools, it was not l’shem shamayim, but rather tinged with personal interests. If there was a dispute between Beith Rabbi Joshua and Beith Rabbi Eliezer, it may have been corrupted by the students who took their rebbes’ views too seriously, maybe even to the extent that they could not understand why others would not accept them. When the sages sought an example of an intellectually honest disputation, they did not propose “the differences of opinion between the various yeshivoth” because, unfortunately, those are usually not born of pure motives. Only Beith Shammai and Beith Hillel achieved that. The sages pointed out (Y’vamoth 14) that although some of the disputes between the schools were regarding the most severe of prohibitions, the forbidden relations, this did not prevent them from tolerating the others’ practices. This statement is remarkable because of what it implies regarding other schools: they would not intermarry with others’ because of the implications and consequences of the others’ halachic views on pedigree and familial association. This phenomenon is of course still around today, where, in some circles it is considered verboten for a young man of one yeshiva community to be matched with a young woman from another if it is too different, whether so different that they wear different hats, or that, God forbid, one is Ashkenazi and the other Sepharadi.   

Our role as students and as objective seekers of the truth is to make sure, therefore, that we not have so much confidence in our views to the extent that we denigrate the views of others or seek to impose our views on others, or, God forbid, to take action against others, and all of these even for those positions which we have received with certainty from our Rabbeim.

Following the Rulings of the Rambam: A Recent Discussion of Consistency in Deciding Halakhah

I mostly agree with everything the author writes here.

Forthodoxy

לק”י

Rambam SignatureIn response to a recent article on the topic of taharat ha-mishpahah published on the website, a certain rav objected to my use of the Mishneh Torah in coming to halakhic conclusions. Among other things, relying on the Rambam obviates the need for either invasive internal bedikot or the use of a mokh. Citing the common Haredi claims that “we don’t pasken like the Rambam” and “we follow the Shulchan Aruch,” this rav attempts to invalidate my conclusions for anyone but those who happen to be traditional Yemenites, a conclusion which I vigorously oppose. 

The discussion of these particular issues is central to understanding the gap that divides Mekoriut (and the classical Sefardic approach) from the Haredi world, and clearly displays the halakhic double-standards inherent in their position.

A PDF our exchange is available for download here: A Recent Exchange

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The Prohibition Against Sterilizing Animals

*********,

I wanted to put my answer to you in writing. The question was concerning neutering a female dog, and my answer was that it was unequivocally forbidden. I will first reproduce Maimonides’s codification here, and then point out some notes introduced in the Shulhan Aruch and the commentaries, and then I will present the reasons as to why the decisors reject the Taz’s loophole for allowing neutering, and why I believe Rabbi ***** is mistaken in his analysis and conclusion. I would also like to say at the outset that it is beyond the scope of this response to go into the permissibility of saving an animal’s life through sterilization, as it is even the case that we may save a man’s life if it necessitates castrating him. I am only addressing the question of neutering the dog because the owner wants to prevent it from producing litters.

(Forbidden Relations, Chapter 16)

It is forbidden to destroy a male’s reproductive organs. This applies to humans and also to animals, beasts, and fowl, both from a kosher species and from a non-kosher species, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora… Whoever castrates [a person or an animal] should be lashed according to Scriptural Law everywhere. Even a person who castrates a person who has been castrated should be lashed… A person who castrates a female – whether a human or other species – is not liable.

Note this last line. This is not permissible. It is just not punished by a humanly court.

It is forbidden to have a man or a member of another species drink a potion that causes him to lose his sexual potency. Lashes are not given, however. A woman is permitted to drink a potion to cause her to lose her sexual potency so that she will not conceive.

So far, this is the only leniency we have encountered, a woman can ingest birth control, but this would still be forbidden to do to animals and of course we could not perform some sort of surgery on a woman. Also note that although I have based my translation on that of Rabbi Touger, there is an error in his published version, which I have corrected here (in bold letters). He had translated “or a male of another species. ”  Maimonides’s ruling appears like this in the original:הַמַּשְׁקֶה עִיקָרִין לָאָדָם, אוֹ לִשְׁאָר מִינִים, כְּדֵי לְסָרְסוֹ–הֲרֵי זֶה אָסוּר, וְאֵין לוֹקִין עָלָיו; וְאִשָּׁה מֻתֶּרֶת לִשְׁתּוֹת עִיקָרִין שֶׁמְּסָרְסִין אוֹתָהּ עַד שֶׁלֹּא תֵלֵד. From this you can clearly see that the first rule applies to human men and all animals, while the second rule applies only to human women, and in his translation, we are left guessing what would be the rule regarding giving oral sterilization agents to female animals. The real halacha is implied in the source Gemara, Sabbath 110-111, whereby a distinction is made between people and animals. God told all the animals to multiply, but although he also told mankind to multiply, the sages deduced that just like man was bidden to “conquer (or subdue) the earth,” and only men conquer because women don’t wage war, it stands to reason that women are also excluded from multiplying, and therefore although we can not destroy their capacity to reproduce, we can not stop women from taking some sort of extreme oral contraception.

If a person bound a man and set a dog or other animal upon him until his sexual organs were maimed or he made him sit in water or snow until his sexual organs lost their potency, he is not given lashes unless he castrates him by hand. It is, however, fitting to subject him to stripes for rebellious conduct. It is forbidden to tell a gentile to castrate one of our animals. If the gentile took the animal and castrated it on his own initiative, it is permitted. If a Jew acts deceitfully in this context, he should be punished and required to sell the animal to another Jew. He may [sell it] to his son who is past majority, but not to his son who is below majority, nor may he give it to him.

These laws are basically quoted verbatim in Even Ha’ezer 5:11-14.

Now, in that final paragraph, the R’ma brings up an interesting point. He implies that there were those who felt that if it were obvious to us that a gentile was buying an animal from a Jew and intended to castrate or neuter that animal, we would not be allowed to sell him that animal. The rationale for this stringency is that is forbidden to figuratively place a stumbling block before the blind, i.e., mislead one into transgressing. What transgression? There is an opinion that even gentiles may not harm the reproductive organs of animals. Now, this is not the halacha, as we saw above, because we may sell animals to gentiles, and what they then do is their own business, and we have also seen that the conclusion of the halacha is that gentiles have no prohibition against castrating/neutering animals. (They are still forbidden from physically harming each other.) However, for those who wish to act stringently and not sell their animals to gentiles lest the gentiles sterilize them, the R’ma adds, “However, if the gentile who purchases [the animals] does not sterilize them himself, but rather gives it (sic) to another gentile to sterilize, all would permit.” That is, even if one were worried that he is misleading a gentile by selling to him an animal the gentile will most certainly sterilize, because there is no prohibition to mislead someone into misleading someone else, he should not worry in this case. This is how the Vilna Gaon explains the reasoning of the R’ma.

Now, Rabbi **** misread the quoted line of the R’ma above to mean that if the Jew were somehow looking for a way to cheat the system, namely by selling the animal to a gentile who would then sterilize it and sell it back to the Jews although that exact case was already forbidden, if the deal involves the gentile “buyer” having some other gentile do the deed, then all is permissible. I have tried to point this out to him, but to no avail, and have since ceased corresponding with him due to this. I am of course horrified that he would use this error to publicly rule on a matter involving a Torah prohibition, but then again, he did not permit this outright. Instead, he made this a condition for using another questionable hetter, loophole. It does not make it any better, because it is entirely mistaken.

Which brings us to the hetter he derived from the Taz. The premise is that sterilization is prohibited because it causes the animal suffering. The jump is then made that if some how the animal would not suffer because it under anesthesia, then perhaps the procedure would be permissible. If we then combine this with the fact that the animal is female and another gentile does it for the phony buyer, then we have a hetter. You can now see why this argument would be rejected. Firstly, because no one truly knows why God prohibited sterilization, and even though the Rishonim suggested reasons, all would agree that we could not decide that because we have figured out the reason, we can also devise circumstances whereby the reasons do not apply and by extension, the prohibitions. This, the sages explain, was Solomon’s major mistake. Secondly, were the sages unaware of anesthesia? How do you think people managed to castrate oxen in the olden days? At least if you slaughter an ox, it will eventually die, but if you wish to cut off its testicles (or neuter a cow) you either have to majorly restrain the beast, or knock it out with a lot poppy juice or alcohol or the like. This is old science. The Ancient Egyptians knew about basic anesthesia before Moses was born, and if such a method of permitting sterilization was valid, the sages or the rishonim would have mentioned it. If you look in the section above from Maimonides and the Shulhan Aruch, you would have expected to find this exception where they mention tying down an animal and causing a passive castration. Thirdly, just because sterilizing female animals can not be punished, it does not mean that it can somehow be used as a factor in permitting something. Just because a sin is not as severe as another, it does not follow that it can in any way become permissible. Fourthly, we have already seen the fallacy of finding a secondary gentile to perform the sterilization.

In sum, it is entirely clear that the prohibition against sterilizing animals has no exceptions despite what some may have recently suggested. The only example we have found is gentiles doing so of their own accord, and the sages even prohibited a Jew to somehow find a way to get gentiles to perform sterilizations on their behalf. I pray that God give Rabbi **** the wisdom to see the the error in his logic.

 

An Open Letter To Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein

Sir, recently you made the claim that because R’ Elyashiv was the greatest Torah authority of his time, all of K’lal Yisrael should follow his opinion regarding modern-day attempts to identify the biblical T’cheileth, namely that such an endeavor is impossible because we lack a positive Mesorah. Further, it is your own position that because R’ Elyashiv and other  unnamed gedolim were aware of all the attempted proofs as to the veracity of the newly discovered T’cheileth, and yet, they did not tie it into their own tzitzith or encourage others to do so, it would be an affront to the honor of the Torah and its transmitters to do so.

Although R’ Elyashiv’s own greatness can not be disputed, I would like to bring some historical facts to your consideration.

  1. R’ Elyashiv was not as widely accepted as the greatest in his generation outside of your circles.

2. More importantly, we should have what to say concerning the most widely respected and universally acknowledged sage of his time, someone whom even R’ Elyashiv has acknowledged to be a master of all matters of Torah and natural wisdom, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, our master, Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog. Moshe Rabbeinu and Yithro together taught us the test of a true Gadol: when a rav does not know what to answer, who does he ask? And when that rav does not know, who does he consult? And we continue up the pyramid. At the begining of 5701, the Mir Yeshiva found itself in Kobe, Japan, and sent a telegram back to the Gedolei Eretz Yisrael asking when they should observe Yom Kippur, which was in essence a greater question, “where is the halachic dateline?” a matter of halacha that would have consequences for world Jewry. Their telegram, of which I have a copy in my possession, was addressed to, among others, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Brisker Rav, and Rabbi Herzog. They did not even address it to the Chazon Ish! More so, the matter of finding a consensus was personally the responsibility of Rabbi Herzog, and it was ultimately the decision approved under his authority, against the opinion of the Chazon Ish, that carried the day. Here we have an incident that shows that THE Gedolim of 70 years ago acknowledged Rabbi Herzog’s authority to decide for K’lal Yisrael.

Further, it is none other than Rabbi Herzog’s view that in our day and age, we can strive to identify, manufacture, and use T’cheileth without a positive living tradition. He dedicated years of his life to do so.

Therefore, how is it that those who seek to continue following Rav Herzog’s teachings are not following the directives of the gedolim? Are you denying Rav Herzog’s gadlus, chas v’shalom?

Respectfully,

Avi Grossman

The Oral Torah is the Living Torah

Laws of Mamrim. 1:1:

The Supreme Sanhedrin in Jerusalem is the essence of the Oral Law. They are the pillars of instruction from whom statutes and judgments issue forth for the entire Jewish people. Concerning them, the Torah promises Deuteronomy 17:11: “You shall do according to the laws which they shall instruct you….” This is a positive commandment. Whoever believes in Moses and in his Torah is obligated to make all of his religious acts dependent on this court and to rely on them.

I highly recommend for everyone to study the subsequent two chapters on his own. As explained by R’ Kappah, ideally, and in the future, the halacha will once again be determined by a Sanhedrin. The sages will not look to the Talmud in order to derive the halacha like we do today (although perhaps we could make an argument that they stopped doing so in the last centuries and have taken on a common-law approach of only following immediate precedent). This got me to thinking about the nature of the living Oral Law and the Written Law.

When we study living organisms, whether flaura or fauna, it is sometimes in our interest to preserve specimens in certain states, but when we use the methods at our disposal to do so, we kill those organisms, taking away their potential for further  growth and propagation. When you stick something in preservatives or freeze it, it may last indefinitely, but it will never more become part of the cycle that characterizes life.

The Torah was given with two components. The written law is frozen and immutable, it may not be added to or detracted from, and is to be copied from generation to generation exactly as is. It is the DNA of the living Torah, but the actual organism is the Oral Law, which was once living and breathing and open to interpretation by its transmitters. Like all life created by God, it was dynamic and adaptable, and capable of encompassing new disciplines. In the words of our sages, it was both a tree of life for those who supported it, and the water that gave life to everything else.

Thus, we could understand why it would be so wrong to commit it to writing, to preserve it exactly as it was at a given point in time. It was only in the most urgent of situations that the sages did freeze it, to seal it as it was, as the only alternative was to let it be lost forever. But it came at a cost. The preserved Oral Law was no longer capable of living, of growing,  or of reproducing, and most unfortunately, we were left with little knowledge as to how, one day, to remove it from the paradoxically necessary yet poisonous formaldehyde and resuscitate it.

 

 

Q&A: Announcing the Molad and Rosh Hodesh

Question: This week in shul, no one had a calendar and when it came time to do birkas hachodesh, we waited until someone could find a calendar so that we could announce when the molad was, and even after we found one, the chazzan then said that Rosh Chodesh Tammuz will be Monday, when it will really be Shabbos and Sunday. What do we do now?

Answer: It seems to me that although announcing Rosh Hodesh is an important practice, it is not critical that it be done. That is, if it was omitted entirely, or announced after the service had ended, there is no problem. Indeed, in medieval times, there were more varied methods of publicly announcing when Rosh Hodesh would be. As for announcing the molad, I believe that not only is it not necessary, it might actually be undesirable according to many older opinions, including that of the Shulhan Aruch.

Some history: The original practice to announce when Rosh Hodesh would be was for the good of the congregation. Later, the two paragraphs, “mi she asa nissim,” right before the announcement, and “y’hadd’sheihu” right after, were added. Sometime about the 17th century, the prayer of Rava, which was not specifically about the new month, was also added, but it was modified to mention the new month. If you look in other prayer books, and especially in older prayer books, you will find that this paragraph is still not there, because it is problematic. As we have written about before, it is considered by the Vilna Gaon and the Ba’al Hatanya to be tahanunim, supplications that are inappropriate for sabbaths and festivals. In their days, the practice was new, and they opposed it. (I believe that this addition, like many others similar to it, persisted in the texts of the prayer books for mainly two reasons: 1. It gave the printers something to distinguish their new offerings from siddurim already on the market. 2. The cantors could use it for their music, and indeed at the Belz School of Jewish Music it is a major component of their Sabbath Prayers course. This is also true of the B’rich Sh’meih prayer said when removing the Torah from the ark.) But once again, none of these are factors in the communal prayers, and therefore if they can not be performed or if they were not performed, there is no problem. Therefore, if the leader announces the wrong day, they just have to correct him sometime, preferably right away. There is certainly no reason to have to repeat any of the prayers.

As for announcing the molad, the practice is so new, it is not mentioned in the vast majority of classic halachic works. It is not mandated by the Torah, nor by sages, nor by the Shulhan Aruch, nor could any of the classic codes support or reject the practice due to its novelty. (“The Mishna B’rura does not rule to say Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut.”) Before recent times, the molad (the average molad, not the true molad) only mattered for 1. determining the  first day of Tishrei every year, and by extension, the rest of the calendar, and 2. according to some Rishonim and the R’ma, to calculate the last time each month that Birkath Hal’vana may be recited. As we saw earlier, the surprising and unprecedented ruling of the Pri M’gadim is that somehow the R’ma would also hold that the starting time for Birkath Hal’vana should be calculated with similar precision, exactly 72 hours after the molad. However, once this error in transmission became ensconced, we can understand why Ashkenazic congregations would announce the molad. However, the Beth Yosef, the author of the Shulhan Aruch, explicitly rejected the R’ma’s use of such an exact measurement for determining the last time for Birkath Hal’vana, and would have been the first to object to attributing the extension of the usage of such an exact measurement to calculate the first time for Birkath Hal’vana to the R’ma and other earlier authorities. The modern calendar printers make the illogical and halachically indefensible jump of declaring that because the Shulhan Aruch rules that the first time for Birkath Hal’vana is “when seven days have passed for the moon,” those seven days should be calculated as precisely as the Pri M’gadim says to calculate a diverging opinion, namely exactly 168 hours after the average, announced molad. The Beth Yosef himself would of course object to this double falsification of his opinion, which was really like that of the sages: Birkath Hal’vana is to be said on Rosh Hodesh, and there is a qabbalisitc practice to wait for seven days, but those seven days should certainly not be calculated using the R’ma’s method of calculating the end of the Bracha! How much more so would our master object to publicly announcing the molad, which gives the people the impression that indeed Birkath Hal’vana may only be recited 168 hours thereafter. I would like to find out when non-Ashkenaic congregations started announcing the molad, and if there are any older congregations or congregants who can still recall when the practice was introduced, because on the surface, it is innocuous and only takes a few seconds, and only after some major contemplation do we realize that it is not in-line with halachic traditions.

Therefore, if no one knows when the molad is supposed to be, better to just continue with the service and not make the community wait. Further, like with regards to kapparois, we should really be asking, “according to the Shulhan Aruch, may we publicly announce the time of the molad when we announce Rosh Hodesh?”